Keeping the dream alive

Consumers will return to the high street if retail brands make shopping an opportunity to dream and explore, rather than a domestic chore, according to research seen by Marketing Week.


Looking deep into a consumer’s mind can help steer them away from online retail therapy and back onto the high street, according new research by consultancy Fitch.

Shoppers are either in a ‘dream’ mindset where they are open to ideas and inspiration, an ‘exploring’ mindset – where they are open to suggestions when intending to buy something – or are ‘locating’, where they are looking for a specific brand or product and not open to any new ideas, suggests the study seen exclusively by Marketing Week.

Those shoppers who are happiest overall are more likely to feel that all three of their mindsets are being met by retailers, according to the study of 7,250 consumers across the UK, Brazil, Russia, India, China, the US and the United Arab Emirates. Of those who shop both on and offline, 85 per cent expect to dream, 82 per cent expect to explore and 79 per cent expect to locate.

This is crucial for UK marketers, as 19 per cent of British consumers view shopping as more of a chore, compared with 9 per cent of consumers in other territories.

Aaron Shields, strategy director at Fitch, suggests that Ikea is “an absolute superstar” in all three mindsets because the retailer sells a number of different products to varied audiences across both channels.

“When you think about Ikea stores, you walk into rooms that are not just beds and drawers, it’s a New York loft apartment or a Swedish family lifestyle room set. This helps people dream of a better home, lifestyle and way of living. What they do in-store is replicated online, which also comes with advice on how to plan your home.”

Although the research shows that shopper expectation is to be catered for in all three mindsets it also depends on the product being shopped for. If they are buying milk, for example, their priority will be to locate it and any distraction to this locating and buying type of shop would be an annoyance.

The purchase of some items is just about locating. Creating a dreaming environment is not going to be fruitful if a consumer is just seeking to buy top-up minutes or a new phone contract

Richard Stoppard, head of global retail strategy and shopper marketing at Nokia, challenges the idea that people see shopping overall as a chore and says it’s more important to look at what is being bought (see The Frontline, below). He says: “Manufacturers and retailers have created a situation that turns some shopping trips into a chore for some people by either making the product too difficult to shop for, or removing the opportunity to dream and explore.

“That happens because the industry has yet to mature into a sophisticated category or we have standardised the category and it is commoditised too much.”

The beer and cider market is an example of standardisation, says Bob Burgess, Heineken’s off-trade point of purchase strategy manager. He points out that goods are often stacked in bulk and price promotions are popular. Not surprisingly, he is keen for retailers that sell its products to look at more interesting ways of selling them (see The Frontline, below).

Burgess says: “The best place to begin is looking at what is wrong in the aisles and making that better. One example that came out of our own insight has been splitting bottles from cans. Consumers who are format loyal, such as those that buy bottles rather than cans, find it confusing when they are mixed with cans. Then there is the look, feel and perception of the aisle as they go in.”

However, a mobile phone retailer might focus too much on getting a sale in the moment, rather than allowing a shopper to indulge his or her ‘dream’ state. Nokia’s Stoppard gives the example of a consumer asking to see the brand’s Lumia smartphone. Store staff can either fulfil that request, try to sell the product that will earn them the most commission or sell them the product they know the most about.

This does not focus on a shopper’s needs and plays to the negative impact of incentive-based selling.

Stoppard says: “History tells us that successful retail environments require the servicing of shoppers’ needs. If you don’t do that, the shopper will eventually lose faith and you will become a chore shop.”

While UK shoppers can be cynical, those in emerging markets are keener on the activity, with just 3 per cent of those surveyed in India and China saying they find shopping a chore. In the emerging markets, shopping may be more of a novelty for the emerging middle class, or it could be that some retailers are making shopping more fun.

An example of this is India-based Asian Paints, which has a number of showrooms that don’t actually sell any products, rather they feature room sets, colour charts and have experts on hand to help consumers dream about how they could decorate their homes. This appeals to shoppers’ ‘dream’ mindset (see Case Study, below).

“Colleagues overseas talk about the novelty of shopping in a modern way. There are international brands and modern malls, there is a lot of new activity happening in these emerging markets and that’s going to last for a long time. But the novelty factor plays quite heavily there,” saysShields at Fitch.

He adds: “When you travel around the world and you see these experiences elsewhere, it’s much more enjoyable. It helps you explore and make choices between products better, you don’t have to stare at a thousand biscuits to make a decision.”

With online shopping increasing in popularity and arguably taking people away from physical stores, focusing on whether consumers are dreamers or the more practical locators might encourage them to return to the high street.

The frontline

We ask marketers on the frontline whether our ‘trends’ research matches their experience on the ground


Richard Stoppard
Head of global retail strategy and shopper marketing

The Fitch research and the idea behind the states of mind captures in today’s language the way people go about shopping. It’s a positive move to be able to look at the different types of expectation from the shopper perspective. Historically, we have always made an assumption that people can be influenced at the point of sale.

What we are looking at here, particularly with the locate state of mind, is getting out of the way to allow the shopper to do what they need to do.

In the mobile market, supply now outstrips demand, so you now have to convince people that your product is the best and allow them to understand why. A category that has

become about locating a product now has to think about being a dreaming and exploring category.

People are going to dream about the product and how that will impact their lives. This is the big mindset shift that our industry needs to make. They need to understand the impact it has on the lives of people and bring that alive in the retail environment to allow shoppers to see that.

We need to understand what products sit in different shopping environments. What does dreaming look like and what do people want to dream about? What does explore look like, and what do people need to explore and understand in order to make a decision?

The purchase of some items is just about locating. Creating a dreaming environment is not going to be fruitful if a consumer is just seeking to buy top-up minutes or a new phone contract.


Bob Burgess
Off-trade point-of-purchase strategy manager

There are a lot of really good brands in the alcohol industry that invest a lot of money in above-the-line activity and it’s a highly emotionally engaging category outside of the store. Yet when you go in-store there is quite a stark contrast, with the products stacked high in a value and deal driven environment.

There is not much to engage the shopper and they are distracted by deals constantly. This makes for a fairly repetitious and uninspiring environment for the most part, especially for those shoppers looking for something different.

Promotions are very prevalent, especially in beer, which causes spikes and shifts from one supplier to another and brand preference. This research is around the emotional needs of the shopper and looks longer term, increasing penetration and keeping the category relevant to the shopper.

We have fantastic relationships with the retailers and we are working together to make a more vibrant environment in long alcoholic drinks. From a brand perspective, they are very well attuned to the emotional needs of shoppers and most of the messaging is around that emotional connection. The disconnect is where retailers and suppliers fail to deliver that in-store and that’s where the challenge lies.

As brand owners, we have an obligation to create great in-store experiences and events that will help keep shoppers coming back for more because they’ve enjoyed the experience in-store. That means the whole category benefits.

Case Study: Asian Paints

Asian Paints is helping consumers explore the use of colour

Asian Paints operates across 17 countries and sells through 22,000 small franchised shops. The India-based company wanted to sell more quality coloured paint at higher margins but discovered that the average Indian consumer feels a bit daunted when it comes to home decoration decisions.

To get round this problem, Asian Paints created large separate experience centres that gave room to dream and explore colour, but didn’t actually sell a single pot of paint.

The dreaming and exploring hubs host a series of experiences ranging from colour ‘chefs’ that mix different schemes and digital touchwalls that ‘paint’ customers’ rooms in real time to vignettes designed to explore how colour can influence mood, character and light.

Digital tools are used to help customers capture colour schemes outside the store and share what they’ve learned on social media.

Indian consumers lacking confidence with colour could also get help from an Asian Paints consultant, exploring possibilities, learning new things and having help narrowing down their choices.

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